According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2019 alone, an estimated 268,600 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. These diagnoses will impact virtually every aspect of their lives, as they struggle to pay medical bills, obtain appropriate treatment, and battle this serious disease.
Fortunately, there are more treatment options than ever before, and long-term prognosis for breast cancer patients has never been better. Since 2000, breast cancer incidence rates have been decreasing. From 2002 to 2003, they dropped by a whopping 7% thanks in large part to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy.
Even better, breast cancer deaths have been on the decline as well. Since 1989, medical advancements have improved treatments and outcomes, resulting in a steady decline of breast cancer deaths. In addition, better screening and increased awareness have prompted women of all ages to monitor their health closely, resulting in earlier detection and better outcomes.
Unfortunately, the breast cancer death rates in the United States are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. In 2019, an estimated 41,760 women will lose their battle with breast cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
One of the reasons why breast cancer deaths have been on the decline is because of increased awareness. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an international health campaign that aims to increase awareness of the disease, raise funds for research and treatment, and improve overall outcomes for breast cancer patients. It occurs every October around the world and helps to educate people about the importance of early screening and tests.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the Imperial Chemical Industries pharmaceutical division (part of AstraZeneca). Their main aim from the beginning was to promote early detection of breast cancer through screenings and mammography.
In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to use pink ribbons during their New York City race to designate breast cancer survivors. In 1993, the Senior Corporate VP of the Estee Lauder Companies founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its official symbol.
Breast Cancer Awareness Activities
All throughout the month of October, breast cancer patients, survivors, and their family members can take part in numerous activities across the world. There are walks, runs, cycling rides, and festivals to attend and lend support. The National Race for the Cure, for example, is held in over 100 U.S. cities, as well as international countries.
In New Orleans, the Race for the Cure will take place on Saturday, October 19th in City Park. Anyone wishing to participate can choose between a 3.1-mile run/fitness walk or a 1-mile fun run Kids Dash.
Breast Cancer Awareness Improves Research
Since breast cancer awareness month was started, more and more people are seeking mammograms and performing routine breast exams. This has led to an increase in early detection and a better overall prognosis for those who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Between the late 1980s and 2015, a woman’s risk of dying of breast cancer has dropped 39%. This equates to more than 300,000 survivors that would have otherwise lost their battle with the disease.
However, more needs to be done. There is still a racial gap in mortality, and African-American women have higher death rates, despite similar incidence rates. In fact, the mortality rate is 42% higher among black women than white women, prompting the need for further research and treatment advancements.